World Trip HomePost Ten

Post Ten - Fjords to Finland

Reflecting PoolReflecting Pool

Just another afternoon on the Sognefjord....

Nigardsbreen GlacierNigardsbreen Glacier

Walking to this glacier was magical, a fantasy voyage. We braced ourselves for the cold with a hot cup of coffee in the visitors' center, then drove down to the lake in this picture. A small motorboat ferried us across, driving past floating ice crystals from the glacier that had melted into the fantastic shapes of birds, jewels, and pieces of icy driftwood. Once across, we hiked ten minutes to get to the snout of the glacier itself.

It's difficult to describe how huge this mass of ice actually is. To give you an idea, there are three rope teams of glacier hikers, each with about 10 people, on the left side of this glacier. Can you see them?

Stave Church in UrnessStave Church in Urness

The small, beefy ferry across the fjord held only held six cars, and was run by a young family-husband, wife, and two children were all on board, helping to operate the craft. Once across, we parked and hiked up a steep, narrow country road to get to the church.

Near the dock, two local teenage boys were selling fresh raspberries picked from fields stretching behind them. We bought two containers of the brilliant-red berries and wolfed them as we climbed the hill. They were deliciously sweet, soft and juicy in your mouth, and their juice left stains on our fingers and lips.

Viking Carvings in UrnessViking Carvings in Urness

These 11th century carvings adorn panels on the side of the church, as shown in the picture above. Apparently, they used to stand at either side of the church's front door. Historians believe they were taken from an earlier church that stood on the same site. Today they are some of the finest known examples of the exquisitely detailed, pagan designs used in the Vikings' pre-Christian religions.


Our Scandinavian trip had to include at least one folkdance performance, especially because Scott had never seen folkdancing before. My parents and I danced in a Finnish folkdancing group when I was a teenager, traveling around the Northwest during the summers and the holidays to perform at festivals.

We actually did not find a Finnish folkdance performance, but these Swedish folkdancers in Stockholm were a pleasing substitute. We had learned many Swedish dances due to western Finland's Finn-Swede ethnic mix, so most of the dances were familiar. In fact, these dancers moving gracefully through their dances put a nostalgic lump in my throat.

Stockholm EveningStockholm Evening

Stockholm is home to Skansen, a historical park that's home to a collection of more than 100 historical buildings like this one, including old farm buildings, shops, public buildings, and even a church, that have been taken down and carefully reconstructed here for the viewing public. Costumed docents in each building perform traditional crafts, like clockmaking and weaving, and give you insights into life in the Sweden of previous centuries.

We toured the buildings, watched folkdancers, and later in the evening, listened to two violinists play traditional Swedish music at one of the old family farms. Mom, Dad, and I sat on the front porch as the strains of music floated across the air, and Scott wandered around the buildings, capturing the evening light on camera.

After the RainThe Stockholm-Turku Ferry

Scandinavia is expensive, so the Scandinavians have to be adept at stretching their kroners and Finnish marks. Duty-free shopping on the ferries between countries is an excellent way to save money, especially because the taxes on liquor and cigarettes in these social democracies would make other Europeans choke.

It's also a great way to spend the weekend, since the ferries are equipped with nice restaurants, cafes, discos, and bars that keep the party going into the sun comes up over the Baltic.

We didn't stock up on alcohol or cigarettes, but we did have a fine meal and some excellent wine for dinner, including the first California Chardonnay Scott and I had in eight months.

Sauna TimeSauna Time

On our first night in Finland, we stayed in the Paivakulma youth hostel, a funky old converted schoolhouse, outside Rymattyla. As the only guests, we had full reign over the sauna by the lake the entire evening. This is the view of the sauna from the schoolhouse window. Scott was the only one who jumped in the lake that night, but we all had a blast.

Next Up: Finland to Amsterdam

Copyright 2001
Scott & Karen Semyan